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Foodies Who Take Statins (Zocor/Lipitor/etc)

Hello, chowhounds, I'm a journalist working on a newspaper article about cholesterol-challenged foodies who are able to remain foodies because they take statins (Zocor, etc.). The inspiration for the idea, by the way, is that I myself am a cholesterol-challenged foodie who is able to remain a foodie because I take Zocor. Have you been eating steak three times a week, guilt-free, ever since you started taking meds? Have those little pills given you license to eat things you'd shy away from if statins didn't exist? If you fit the bill yourself, or know someone who does, I would be grateful to hear your experiences and stories.

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  1. I'm on vytorin and my husband is zocor. We made some changes in the way we eat, but nothing huge. We are more careful about reading nutritional info. Definitely cut out anything with transfat and really limit saturated fats. I don't buy low fat dairy so, I limit how much I use. My DH has more problems with triglycerides so he takes fish oil and I've been on him to drink green tea. My big thing is trying to get him to eat less processed pre-prepared foods. If I do the shopping, I don't buy them, but if he does, he stocks up. It's still a steep learning curve. One great thing we did was go to a museum in Denver. They had a health exhibit and showed how bad for you fast food is. That really opened his eyes. Even my kids get into it now. Look at the ingredients, calorie count, sodium, sugar, fats, etc....but to answer your question, no we don't take it as a license to eat anything and everything. We still enjoy many types of food, but are more aware of what we are putting in our bodies.

    1. Wow. That's a frightening trend in American health care. Why is that people have lost any personal accountability for their own health and rely on medication to compensate for their lack of self-control? I see it all of the time- people think that if they're on a handful of pills they can do whatever unhealthy thing they want... yet if a drug has a side effect that they don't like, they're getting in line to sue the manufacturer.

      I think it's safe to say that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is healthier than a diet full of meat and processed food. Adding a statin to a diet of meat and processed foods may improve the cholesterol panel, but leaves the individual at a high risk of all sorts of other medical conditions.

      12 Replies
      1. re: chococat

        please be careful in broad brushed statements.

        shouldn't people with a medical issue be allowed to eat short ribs and katsu? Remember there is more to needing some of these pharmas than too many super-sized meals, for example, your DNA.

        Yes jfood agrees that American health is a major issue, but many have accountability in mind when they take the pills versus having a stroke, and leaving their families to an early grave.

        1. re: jfood

          Thanks, jfood. Unfortunately, my numbers are on the rise despite the fact that I exercise, eat relatively healthy and am considered thin. High cholesterol is hereditary in my family. My numbers are borderline and some sort of statin may be in my future. So, yeah, I wholeheartedly agree it's more than unfair to label people who take pills as "irresponsible" when we don't control our own DNA.

          1. re: kattyeyes

            I'm all for people indulging occasionally- but the OP was referring to people who have high cholesterol and choose to eat "steak three times a week, guilt-free, ever since you started taking meds?" and want to talk to people who think that "those little pills given you license to eat things you'd shy away from if statins didn't exist". I pass no judgement on people who do their best to control their cholesterol levels with lifestyle modification and take statins to help achieve their goal. But that doesn't appear to be the audience that the OP is targetting.

            1. re: chococat

              I totally agree with what you're saying. I don't think the OP is targeting people who take statins are taking some responsibility to control their diet and exercise. I think he's looking for folks who take statins so they don't have to control their diet and exercise. My MIL has been taking Lipitor for years due to her high cholesterol. Unfortunately, according to her doctors, her years of Lipitor caused her to have some liver issues and has to be tested on a monthly basis. When she went off of Lipitor, her cholesterol level rose up again. So she's very careful with her diet (but indulges once in a while) so that she doesn't have to take as large of a dosage.

              And I think it's definitely possible to be a foodie and not eat rib eyes and pork belly all the time. There are so many delicious things in the world that are healthy for you. It's about retraining taste buds so that you can find deliciousness in something like steamed kale.

            2. re: kattyeyes

              Thank you. I was going to say this, but then saw you said it better.

            3. re: jfood

              <<shouldn't people with a medical issue be allowed to eat short ribs and katsu?>>

              It's not not a question of "allowing" people to eat - it's about the wisdom of using the medication as an excuse to continue the behavior that contributed to them needing the medication in the first place.

              I'll give smokers advice on supplements that may ameliorate some of the damage, but I tell them over and over they're not an excuse to continue smoking. (And, of course, as CHers we should know that smoking kills taste buds...)

              1. re: Richard 16


                That's the point, not everyone has the food as the culprit. there is zippo evidence that DNA may lead to lung cancer, not the same with cholesterol. And if a medication increase the quality of life for the person, then jfood believes that is why these pharmas were invented.

                Maybe just a difference of view.

                1. re: jfood

                  From the American Cancer Society:

                  "Cancer is now clearly understood to be a disease of abnormal gene function. Genes are segments of DNA that contain instructions on how to make the proteins the body needs to function. They govern hereditary traits, such as hair color, eye color, and height, as well as susceptibility (likelihood of being affected) to certain diseases, such as cancer."



                  Some of the cholesterol problems are heredity, but most are due to lifestyle. The combination obviously is the worst.

                  (Sorry if I'm somewhat pedantic, but I am a teacher at a college...)
                  As to why they were invented I may have a doctor's opinion as to what "quality of life" means. The primary hypothesis is that by lowering LDLs and HLDLs and raising HDLs both mortality and morbidity are lowered. I tend to think of morbidity as significant damage without death. Sure, it also includes less tangible pursuits - abilities, desire, wants, etc. - but none of them are possible with death (as far we know) and many are restricted or even even non-existent depending on the damage.

                  To that end the meds may work, and *if* someone can enjoy stuff (O.K., food - this is CH) in moderation that's great - but there may be an adverse effects. Add to that the adverse effects of the medications and there are significant reasons to reduce or even eliminate the harmful foods.

                  1. re: Richard 16

                    Gotta read the whloe article:

                    5-10% of all cancers are hereditary based:

                    "Cancer is such a common disease, especially in older adults, that many families have at least a few members who have had cancer. Only about 5% to 10% of all cancers are the inherited type. The cancer actually is not inherited, but the abnormal gene that can cause the cancer is what is inherited. This document will focus on those cancers that tend to occur in families.

                    Most of the time, different types of cancer occur apparently by chance or are linked with common family habits such as cigarette smoking, which can damage the genes in the lungs, throat, mouth, and several other organs. However, studies have shown that certain cancers can occur to excess in some families. For example, a woman whose mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relatives) has had breast cancer is about twice as likely to develop breast cancer as a woman whose close female relatives have not had breast cancer. "

                    gotta love the term "common family habits". what is second hand smoke like wearing one brown and one black sock? or ketchup on a hot dog?
                    And with respect to LDL see http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec12/ch157...

                    "Some people are more sensitive to the effects of diet than others, but most people are affected to some degree. One person can eat large amounts of animal fat, and the total cholesterol level does not rise above desirable levels. Another person can follow a strict low-fat diet, and the total cholesterol does not fall below a high level. This difference seems to be mostly genetically determined. A person's genetic makeup influences the rate at which the body makes, uses, and disposes of these fats. Also, body type does not always predict levels of cholesterol. Some overweight people have low cholesterol levels, and some thin people have high levels."

                    Hard to comment on the quality of life in the post-life sphere, everyone will have to see if there is a truly virtual Chowhound. And jfood used to be a student at a college (never bought into pedantic versus puerile theory) and always enjoyed the reparte (accent egu) with his professors. :-))

                    1. re: jfood

                      So very nicely stated, jfood. Thank you kindly--and especially on behalf of those of us who fit the profile of your last quoted paragraph, we appreciate the time you took to share that info. Have a great weekend!

                      1. re: jfood

                        Jfood - if you're using Windows there's an easy shortcut for accented characters. For the e with accent aigu, hold down the ALT key and press 0-2-3-3 on the number keypad, then release the ALT key. Voila! Nearly all international accented characters are available using similar ALT codes. If you're interested I can post more. In fact, I think I'll start a thread in Not About Food on the subject!

            4. I've never believed that taking a drug in order to be able to eat certain foods is a good idea. I'm willing to relegate red meat and dairy to the "seldom eaten" segment of my diet -- there's lots of good chow out there that is not a challenge to my health. I prefer to not take any drug whose long-term consequences are not known. Through diet and exercise, I've kept my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers very low.

              I realize that for a small percentage of folks, this is not possible, and drugs are called for. That said, I think that if you're taking statins in order to be able to eat red meat every night of the week, you're nuts.

              1. I take crestor everyday. Works great. However I do try to limit myself, I order non-fat milk drinks, limit myself somewhat with cheese, limit somewhat red meat and pretty much don't endulge in ice cream.

                I am running in the 170's, the stuff does work.

                When bbq season and outdoor grilling starts up again I will eat what I cook.

                1. I was put on Crestor three months ago. I did make changes in my diet when I found out how bad my high and low cholesterol were. I eat out less often and am choosing more "whole foods" including more whole grains, lean meats, fruits, vegetables and nuts as snacks instead of the processed foods. I'm also working on smaller portions and exercising. Medication does not mean I get a free pass on foods; it means I need to reevaluate my diet , my lifestyle and my health in general. I do not want to stay on Crestor for the rest of my life, but would like to manage my cholesterol in a more natural method in the future. I also have a problem with getting my husband on the bandwagon, we both slip occasionally but he seems more prone.

                  1. I've been taking Lipitor for years with excellent cholesterol levels now. I have pretty much cut out fried food although it's hard to resist the occasional french fries. I try to stick to lean red meats and fish. Working out helps, too. I lost 35 lbs since starting on Lipitor. I think the combo of drugs, eating better & excercise did the trick.

                    1. Why stop at statins? I know too many borderline diabetics who take metformin and use it as a license to eat whatever they want. My dad goes to a lot of korean restaurants and to him, it just wouldn't be a meal without a bowl of white rice. He tries to order brown, but sometimes it's not available. My brother thinks it's okay to eat jelly beans by the handful as long as he takes his meds. Ergh.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: soypower

                        A serving rice with your meal is perfectly fine for a Type II diabetic so long as if fits within the carbohydrate allotment for that meal. And brown rice has almost exactly the same grams of carbs as white so for a diabetic one is no better or worse than the other.

                        1. re: soypower

                          My mom, who I inherited my cholesterol and bad eating habits from together, does eat burgers, ribs, steaks et al and then wonders why her meds don't work. She also was "pre-diabetic" for many years before she was diagnosed with diabetes are given lifetime prescriptions. She was also told that if she changed her lifestyle, many of these medications would either begin to help or even be no longer needed. My dad is eating better, losing weight and now had his cholesterol and juvenile diabetes in check after battling it his entire life, but until my mom makes the choice to take care of herself her doctor's medication means nothing. Her Dr has said this many times. Is it truly any different than a smoker with asthma who wonders why the inhaler isn't doing it's job?

                        2. I take Lipitor. I'm a bit of an oddity as my body manufactures excess cholesterol (both good and bad). Due to a genetic condition (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) I'm on the heart transplant list.
                          To me, it's a trade off. I never was a big steak 3x a week, daily Mickey D's type. I find that if I am careful, I eat pretty much whatever I want, within reason. The problem is, most people are simply unwilling or unable to use common sense and our supersize, AYCE lifestyle doesn't help.

                          1. I had a stent installed two years ago, and was placed on lipitor, plavix, and aspirin. I exercise every day (and had prior to the procedure) and maintain a "decent" lifestyle and diet. My MD said that since my condition didn't come from any one risk factor, he couldn't rule anything out - just to maintain my exercise, watch what I eat (but don't get too carried away), etc. I haven't had a steak in two years, although enjoy a burger occasionally. The lipid numbers are fine, although they weren't high to begin with. I figure moderation is best so I'll maintain that attitude until I'm told othrewise. I don't use the drugs as crutches to eat what I want. It's all self-discipline

                            1. The purpose of the drugs is NOT so you can eat what you want. You're to use them with a proper diet and exercise to help keep your cholesterol down.

                              My DH has been on Lipitor for a couple of years. The cholesterol "gene" runs rampant on both his parents sides of the family. My cholesterol is borderline high... I'm not on anything at the moment. My mom takes Zetia and my dad has no problem at all with cholesterol. The thing is with the "gene", it doesn't matter what you eat or how you cook it... if it runs in your family, you're more that likely to have problems. I've never been a fan of a lot of fried foods or lots of red meat. We eat healthy and I sear, braise, bake or grill most everything we eat. I have cooked this way for the 36 years of my married life. If I hadn't cooked this way the doc told my DH that his cholesterol would be twice what it is now.

                              The meds are not a license to have a food fest on all the wrong foods. You have to take some responsibility and work with the meds.

                              1. Like many of the other responding posters, I'm on a statin (lipitor); My father had a heart attack this year (triple bypass, but doing very well now) and I turned 30- thought I'd check in with a Dr. to see how I was doing.
                                Here's the thing: I was a butcher for 2 years, a meat wholesaler for a year, a caterer for 5, and now i buy & sell cheese. I manage to leave most of my work "at the office"- but I still love steak, sausages, cheese, etc.
                                My father, who I looked up to for his dedication to his physical fitness and diet was still vulnerable to high cholesterol and I am indeed my father's son. One of the reasons I went to culinary school and worked with the chefs I have was to learn more about the foods I cook/eat. Meat on the bone, chicken with skin, and cheese for snacks have been relegated to "once in a while" but I have learned how to make tasty ultra lean sausages which I use for flavoring soups & stews. I was always a big fruit and veg eater, too- now I just watch my empty carbs, avoid buying fatty snacks, and take my Lipitor.
                                I'm down about 30 pounds in a year and still enjoy the foods I eat. I suppose if I had more money, I would face more temptation. If anything, going on a statin drug made me more self-conscious about my eating habits, not more brazen.

                                1. I take Simvastatin, which is a generic. I started with Lipitor and the difference is a higher dose of a cheaper medication.

                                  I do sometimes wonder if the mental freedom the statin gives is part of the benefit, that stress levels are lower because I'm not worried about what I eat and that then affects my blood chemistry.

                                  My experience is that as I get older - early 50's - I eat lighter because my metabolism is slower. I can't eat steak or fries or any super caloric food every day because I would get fat, even though I work out. The statin has meant I don't worry at all about what I eat, and that has likely meant I eat more cheese and the fat on a piece of meat, but only in the context that overall I eat less of those things for weight / calorie reasons. If I didn't have the statin, I would reduce my fat intake a little, but I wouldn't consume that much less. The main effect is lack of worry.

                                  1. My cholesterol was in the 350 range. My triglicerides were so off the charts, they couldn't be measured. I took Mevacor and then Lipotor for years. Always watching what I ate (mostly) and exercising daily, the values varied little. Began having problems on Lipitor and stopped. New doctor suggested a natural method....Niacin. I now take 2000mg of Niacin and she just incorporated Zetia. For the first time in years my trig. are manageable and chol. lower. Still careful how I eat. Not veg but alot of fish and veg soups with the occasional "cheat". Still having wine with dinner every night....not giving that up.

                                    1. I've taken fenofibrate for years now to control high-cholesterol. For some while before the medics decided to prescribe that, I was part of hospital monitoring exercise. Tried all the usual dietary changes and it had minimum effect on the levels (no surprises there, as we know folk have naturally occuring levels).

                                      So, I reckon I still eat a relatively healthy balanced diet but then I reckoned I ate a fairly healthy balanced diet before. Steak three times a week? Do I look made of money?

                                      1. 2000 mgs. Fish Oil capsules twice a day...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: robt5265

                                          Me too. Plus the same amount of flaxseed oil. Brought my bad cholesterol down from 137 to 92 in two months with no change in diet and no prescription meds.

                                        2. I exercise, don't smoke, am of a reasonable weight, hardly ever drink and try to control stress, but due to a family history that would be Guiness World Record Book-worthy, I now must take a statin pill (Zocor).

                                          It never, ever, not in a million years, occured to me that the improvement in my lipid profile caused by the statin is some kind of license to indulge in bad eating habits.

                                          I still love to eat great food but I eat great healthy food. If anything, I'm eating less bad stuff (ice cream for example). Having a doctor tell you you have to take a drug to keep from dying is kind of a wake-up call in that way.